Is Your House on Fire?

A few weeks ago I was at my dog park and it was later at night, around 9pm. I’d had a long day and felt my pup deserved an off-leash romp, even if that meant going in the dark. I didn’t expect anyone to be there, but an older woman was there with her two rascals. We started talking and before long I learned that as a young adult she had been a nun. It made sense, actually, she definitely had the demeanor of someone that had listened a lot in her life. The kind of listening were the words don’t matter so much as the space between the words.

Before you know it, she was telling me a story of someone she knew that was getting a divorce. She said that it seemed clear that the marriage had been over many years before, but that her “house wasn’t on fire yet” but that recently it had gone down quickly, all the way to the ground.

This concept of a house needing to be on fire before someone is motivated to truly change really struck me.

In terms of health and wellness many people don’t change until their house is on fire. They wait until their cholesterol is so high that it requires medication. They wait until they can’t climb a flight of stairs without losing their breath. They wait until the 5 pounds of holiday season weight has become 20 the next July.

And this makes sense. Life is busy, complicated and sometimes just getting by feels like you are winning at life. Treading water is better than drowning. I heard that and I feel that, too.

But we all know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Is there an area of your life that feels like that? Are you barely keeping your head above? Let’s focus on that and let’s try to change before your ship is totally sunk. Let’s stop before your fire begins — it’s so much easier to re-decorate a house than it is to re-build it, right?

If your area is fitness and healthy eating and you are just keeping your head above water right now, let’s do these three things this week to ensure we catch you before your house is engulfed in flames:

1. Focus on ADDING in one healthy eating behavior. That could be eating one huge salad a day with a lean protein. That’s it. Don’t change anything else in your diet, just ADD this salad.

2. Add in a high-intensity-interval training session to your workout week. Don’t change anything else you’re doing workout-wise. Just ADD this in. This can be some sprint repeats, hill sprint repeats and anything Tabata-style, like intervals on a spin bike. Shoot for a 20-minute session. Yes, that’s it!

3.  Spend one hour a week doing a relaxing self-care focused thing for yourself. This could be a leisure walk, a yoga class or podcast, or meditation — you can break it up into 10 minutes 6 – 7 days a week, too. 

Commit to this House on Fire Challenge for one week and tell me how it goes! If you need ideas on some high-intensity workouts to try, just ask!

kettlbell

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Coaching & Training: On Motivation and Critique

Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a trainer or coach. In our current landscape it is an evolving role and there is so much to say about it all. And I’m not the only one that thinks so. I’ve read probably 8 or 10 write-ups in the last 3 months alone! It has given me enough ideas for at least four posts, but I’m starting here today.

A few months ago  I came across an article that caught my attention, gave me pause and I really wanted to write a response to it because I just had SO MUCH TO SAY. I think it only represents a small part of the fitness industry and I want to show you a broader spectrum. I want to show that there are a lot of ways to do this and a lot of ways to think about teaching group fitness that are, in my opinion, more beneficial to the people we serve.

The way my company teaches is different than group fitness in a gym, which is what I feel that this article is geared towards. Mostly I have the same people showing up day in and day out, only adding new people when a new session begins. And our groups are typically less than 12 participants. So yes, it’s a very different environment — one which I prefer! But that doesn’t mean that your standard gym classes aren’t good and can’t be better. They are and they can be!
Continue reading “Coaching & Training: On Motivation and Critique”

Core + Conditioning Workout

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Here’s a little workout for y’all. Conditioning work for my purposes in this workout is about getting your heart rate up and “conditioning” your cardiovascular system.

Historically, I am not one to prioritize abs in my own workouts — we use our core in most movements, particularly in heavy lifting, but lately I have been doing a little bit more ab-specific work. And after a few months, I am definitely seeing some results of this labor, so I wanted to share the love. I don’t love traditional crunches for a variety of reasons, but what I do love is a good challenge, so things like v-ups and hollow rocks are right up my alley 🙂  Because, well, they are hard and I love that.

In general,  this workout is geared towards advanced/intermediate exercisers. It is not intended for beginners, though I do offer some modifications below for injuries and places where you get hung up — I encourage you to do things well, rather than rushing through reps just to be down with it. Please reach out with any questions! Tips and links for each exercise below!

1. Burpees:  advanced burpee, i.e. chest to deck, please and thank you.

modification burpee (in my groups we call these a high-plank burpee)

2. V-Ups:  If you don’t have these quite yet or have lower-back issues, modify with 20 starfish sit-ups. For more of a challenge, do 10 on each side rather than alternating sides.

3. Reverse Burpees:  Be judicious with this one, particularly those of you with low back issues. The weight will help counter balance you and help bring you forward a bit, but it’s my opinion that it’s optional if you have the ability to do so without one.

4. Plank. I do believe this one does not require a link, but I do encourage you to do a high or tall plank and to practice full-tension (squeeze the glutes, lats, etc.).

5. Kettlebell swings! Again, practice full tension (squeeze the lats, shoulder are locked in their joint socket). If you don’t have a kettlebell handy, I will take 60 seconds of jump rope in lieu of this.

6. Hollow rocks. Another link here with more explanation. If this is your first time, take it nice and easy with these guys. Don’t expect them to be as clean and pretty the first time you try them — you may have a larger range of motion than these guys and that’s okay, as long as you’re safe and paying attention to how the exercise feels for you. The main thing to keep in mind is that you want your low back tied to the ground the entire time.

ETA: here’s another explanation of how to get into the proper position for hollow rocks. Also, note that you can also start with bending both knees, then just one knee as you progress to a full hollow rock. If you are a beginner this is good way to go.

Have fun with this one and let me know how it goes!

xoxo,

-Cat

“Counting” workouts

If I had a dollar for every time a client or friend asked me if something “counted” as a workout, I would definitely have a few extra hundred bucks in the bank. And just this week I read a fitness piece by someone that I truly like and respect. In the program, there was a guideline for not counting certain types of movement as your exercise for the week. I get the point of this:  you want your clients to actually do the workouts you write for them. You want them to achieve the results you’ve promised them and that won’t happen if they don’t do the workouts. I truly understand this perspective.

But the idea of not counting things like soccer games or hilly weekend hikes as part of your weekly exercise? To me, that’s the wrong tone to set. Because to me that sounds like we’re telling people that what they are already doing isn’t good enough. And that’s just not my style. Because for those people that are doing that kind of stuff? Keep going, buddy! I don’t want them to stop. I want my workouts to complement their life as it is, I don’t want them to prioritize a workout over a hike. There. I said it. My workouts are a piece of the puzzle to make those things more fun, so you are stronger and have more endurance, not replace something you already enjoy.

As for those times when we ask someone this question of, “does this count?”, it’s because we feel the need to have validation, right? I get it, we want to know that it counts, damnit!? But here is the truth:  no one is keeping track…no one except you! Trust me, whatever your beliefs are, there is no God of fitness keeping hash marks of your workouts.

You might be saying to yourself:  what the hell kind of trainer says this kind of stuff? The kind of trainer that doesn’t believe in using shame tactics, that’s who. Because putting pressure on yourself to measure up to some arbitrary measure is a really awful way to feel. Trust me when I say that the only people that need to worry about whether a workout “counts” are competitive athletes (that likely do have a coach keeping track) or perhaps those that have a very specific goal in mind, like completing an Ironman. If those don’t apply to you, shouldn’t your goal simply to be healthy and happy? Shouldn’t your workouts simply be a complement to your busy life and not be yet another thing that makes you feel bad yourself? There are many battles to fight in life. This isn’t one of them.

If you moved into a new house this weekend and lifted boxes for 48-hours, you better believe I would validate the hell out of you and understand if you didn’t fit in a run or trip to the gym. Not because I want you to be lazy, but I don’t believe in creating an exercise obsession either. Yes, there is always “time” to fit in a workout. Hell, I’ve used this logic with clients and on myself. There are times when it is worth it:  like the time I did Tabata sprints in a hotel parking lot at 7am in 25-degree weather with my dog before spending 9-hours in the car. But is actually  necessary to kill yourself to get up at 5:30 to fit in a workout on already very active day, e.g. moving? It’s definitely a question that is worth asking yourself.

tabata and stella

(Stella wasn’t super stoked about the sprints being so early…but she warmed up quickly!)

So if you find yourself asking someone else if something “counts” as a workout, step aside and ask yourself a few things:

1. Does whatever you’re doing meet your goals? (If you don’t know what your goals are, this question doesn’t even apply to you because your goal is then to simply be healthy and happy.)

2. Are you moving?

3. Are you sweating?

4. Does it make you happy?

If you can answer at least 3 of those things, then yes, here I am to say that it “counts” as a workout.

It’s okay to want validation. Particularly if you are paying for a trainer, whose advise and expertise is what you are looking and paying for. But let’s ask ourself why we are asking this kind of question:  is it because you’re actually looking for a technique, exercise-science based opinion? I.e. can I count this as my “arms” day, etc. Or is it because you want someone to tell that what you did was good enough? If it’s the latter, then let’s go back to our checklist above. Because I am here to tell you that you are good enough. You don’t need someone else to tell you that. Trust me…you are good enough!